Many people think that watching a lot of television makes a
person lazy and unproductive. But for Russ Schumacher, watching
television since he was a child made him rich.
Schumacher, a graduate atmospheric science student, recently won
the $250,000 grand prize on the “Jeopardy! Tournament of
“I always had a dream to be on the show, but I never imagined I
could,” Schumacher said. “I never imagined I could have gotten on
the show, let alone win. It is hard to believe.”
On Friday, Schumacher went to CB & Potts, 1415 W. Elizabeth
St., with friends and family to watch the final game of the
“Tournament of Champions.” No one except his fianc�, Andrea
Saunders, and his members family who attended the April taping of
the show knew he was the winner.
“I honestly don’t have any idea (how I kept it to myself),”
Saunders said. “Theoretically if it did get out he could not have
gotten the money.”
Schumacher said his check for $232,500 arrived in the mail
“FedEx brought it about an hour before we went to watch the
game(show),” Schumacher said. “I immediately put it in the
Because of California state taxes, the check was $17,500 less
than Schumacher originally won. He and Saunders said they plan on
spending some of the money on their wedding and honeymoon.
“A large portion of the money will probably be put away for a
rainy day,” Saunders said. “A portion will definitely go to
Along with the Tournament of Champions money, Schumacher won
$64,800 in the “Jeopardy!” game he played in October 2003 that
qualified him for the Tournament of Champions. He spent most of the
money he won in the qualifier game on a down payment for a new
Todd Ellis, Schumacher’s friend and graduate atmospheric science
student, said he was in disbelief when he found out Schumacher
would be on “Jeopardy!” but when he got over the disbelief he
decided to help his friend practice.
“It started to dawn on us that he could do some real damage on
the show,” Ellis said.
Schumacher said he was lucky to be able to play on “Jeopardy!”
because of the difficult selection process.
“It’s pretty tough, because they just randomly pick names for
call back,” Schumacher said.
He entered his name on the “Jeopardy!” Web site twice before he
was called to take a 50-question test in Denver. He had to answer
at least 35 of the questions correctly in order to move on to the
“Everyone that gets it right plays in a mock question-and-answer
game,” Schumacher said. “It is sort of like the show.”
Schumacher was called back to play in the October 2003 game
where he won and qualified for the “Tournament of Champions”
He said Ken Jennings, the all-time consecutive “Jeopardy!”
winner, helped knock out some of Schumacher’s competitors, which
helped him advance to the “Tournament of Champions,” where he won
three of the four games he played.
Schumacher said one of the most difficult parts about
“Jeopardy!” was getting used to how the buzzer worked.
He said the buzzer does not work until the host, Alex Trebek,
“You have to get the timing down to when they activate the
buzzer,” Schumacher said.
After watching himself on television a few times, Schumacher
said he does not mind it anymore, at least under winning
“It probably would have been worse had I not done well,” he